I guess I must be on a list craze with everyone else. But seriously, I have used the holidays to do the proverbial step back and let my mind wander a bit. Good times in 2013 – see this post.
But much is left to do to keep our momentum. In the last 3 months I have visited the startup scenes in St. Louis, Cleveland, Chicago and DC. Not the valley. Not New York City. Not even Boston, Austin or Seattle. I found just as many committed and passionate community-building entrepreneurs there than here. Yea for them. I mean it. A rising tide floats all boats.
What do we need to see here?
1. At least 2 companies Break Out to Star level. Break out can be an acquisition, a uber-big funding round, or some astronomical user/customer growth numbers that gets recognized nationally. Candidates include ReverbNation, Bronto, Appia, Shoeboxed, WedPics, Sageworks, Adzerk, Netsertive, Windsor Circle, Automated Insights, Zift Solutions or the like. Those cities I mentioned have 3-5 of these. I just mentioned 11 off the top of my head (apologies if I left anyone out). These are revenue-producing, nicely funded (if necessary), real-growth tech companies. Like iContact, Sharefile and Channel Advisor before them – we need at least 2 to break out this year.
2. A real & tangible linkage between the early-stage tech community and the big players in the area including IBM, NetApp, Cisco, Red Hat, SAS to name a few. Right now these guys are nonexistent in the ecosystem. There are so many ways for individuals as well as divisions to play a role here. Don’t these guys realize that there are talented people, real companies and unique technologies right here in their backyard to exploit? I mean partner with.
Listen, I am a capitalist and with that comes a realistic sense of how stuff works. Besides focusing solely on hiring the next 50 computer science graduates out of NC State, some of you guys should show up at a local meetup. Maybe even mentor some tech founders. Possibly make a few internal introductions for product evaluation. Maybe even make a recommendation for acquisition if they like something. Stop checking the 150 emails you got today and come see what is happening in Durham and downtown Raleigh. It is time. Do it for you AND your company.
3. Celebrate as a Region. Not Durham. Not Cary or Morrisville. Not Raleigh. Our strength is in the whole. The region (Triangle, RTP, etc.) continues to attract talented individuals. They may choose to live in Raleigh, Chapel Hill or Apex but they are attracted to the region. Just ask them. Capital is slowly flowing into the area. Break out star companies will accelerate the capital inflow. So, lets celebrate the region. Highlight regional wins as a region. Go team! Rah rah rant over.
It should be another exciting year and I hope beyond hope that we nail it.
agreed on the corporate partner ecosystem, it’s great for entrepreneurs who need validation and potential capital / liquidity. but it’s also great for companies looking to drive innovation. newer companies (aka google/fb) seem to understand that they can buy innovation and experience capital efficiency at different scales, from mega purchases down to small acqui-hires. it would be nice if our area corps adopted this same world view. it would make our entire region more dynamic, lifting up our large anchors as well as infusing our startup scene with much needed success and money.
Reid Hoffman also speaks about talent aggregating towards winners. this is probably an entirely different thought thread though.
2. In Wilmington on April 24th, we are addressing this issue.
We are going to have 5 of the largest employers stand in front of the entrepreneurs to describe the 5 things that keep them up at night.
I am trying to get our entrepreneurs to work towards solutions for existing problems of people who have the resources to become large clients from large industries.